Yesterday was a painful return to civilization after a fantastic weekend in Ft. Lauderdale at Hukilau 2006. The organizers really outdid themselves this time, with four days of well-planned out and executed activities. Kelly and I only got to go for Saturday and Sunday, but we had an excellent time. Here's some of the highlights for us:
Dinner at the Mai-Kai: The Mai-Kai restaurant, the last remaining classic tiki palace in America, celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. It's amazing that the place is still open considering all the shifts in cuisine and real estate values that have come in the last five decades, but thank God it's still around. From the interior design (which can only be described as "more tiki than the Tiki Room") to the outstanding food (the Lobster Special and Pork cooked in the Chinese Oven come to mind), some of the finest alcholic drinks available to post-modern humans, and an enjoyable 20-minute floor show featuring gyrating hotties (both female and male), the Mai-Kai is a treasure.
Live Music: Hukilau brought in a number of outstanding exotica acts from across the country -- groups I had heard about but only heard short samples of. I caught a short set by Ape in the Molokai Lounge that showed off their multi-island influenced music perfectly. What a great party band. Waitiki had one of the most energetic presences I've ever seen on-stage, blending classic exotica sounds with strong-beated contemporary drumming that really got the crowd bobbing. My local favorite Haole Kats played a sweet set with Pablus of the Crazed Mugs, but I'm sure they got the place hopping after we left for the evening.
Jeff "Beachbum" Berry's Drink Seminar: Man, for a beachbum, this guy really knows his stuff! Mr. Berry talked the crowd through the history of the tropical drink, from its invention by Don the Beachcomber to its eventual spread across the country by his former employees, who kept the exact recipes secret and themselves employed in the process. Berry's been persuing classic drink recipies in "DaVinci Code"-like fashion since 1991 and on Sunday we got to taste the results of his efforts -- the first correct mixing of Don the Beachcomber's "Nui Nui" since the recipe was lost sometime mid-century. It was unlike anything I'd ever consumed before. It gave all of us in the audience a real appreciation for the drinks at the Mai-Kai, which along with the Tiki Ti in Los Angeles, are the only places making cocktails from the '30s exactly as they were intended. Berry's book, "Sippin' Safari," which will cover a lot of the material along with 60 new "lost" recipes, will be published in June.